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New Central Library Taking Shape

Evening Edition

More than 35 years ago, San Diego began planning for a new central library downtown. Construction began in 2010 on the nine-story, 255-foot building being erected on Park Boulevard near Petco Park.

Rob Quigley designed the New Central Library
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Above: Rob Quigley designed the New Central Library

“It’s very unusual for a local architect to be awarded a building of this significance,” said Rob Quigley, the San Diego architect who was granted the contract to design the library. “So that was really special, it meant this was my library as well.”

The library will be replacing the current downtown central library on E Street built in 1954 to serve a population of 466,000 San Diegans. The new library space will double in size to nearly 300,000 square feet. It will house 1.25 million items and more than 400 computers.

A comparison of the botanical gardens dome and the dome being built at the Ne...
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Above: A comparison of the botanical gardens dome and the dome being built at the New Central Library.

“We were asked to do a building that looks to future, but respects our past. And so when we asked San Diegans what do you mean by past they said ‘well like the buildings in Balboa Park,’” Quigley said. He was part of the team that held community planning meetings looking for input. “The idea of the dome came from a series of workshops that we held in ’97. It was meant to tie back to Balboa Park and the buildings that are part of the history of San Diego and so we learned from those buildings… one was, studying the botanical garden building and so this dome is an outgrowth, inspired by that building.”

The multipurpose room has views of downtown, and the bay.
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Above: The multipurpose room has views of downtown, and the bay.

At the top of the building will be a three-story reading room. The dome will have eight “sails” with perforated panels to provide shading. The reading room is also a 64-foot cube identical to the lobby below. There will also be a 400-seat multipurpose room with a view of downtown and the bay on the eighth floor.

“As great as this building looks, and as amazing as it’s going to be as a community gathering place, this is really about the people that it’s going to serve,” said Mel Katz, chair of the San Diego Library Foundation. “Inside the library on two floors are going to be 500 students in a high school. Our children’s section is over 10,000 square feet and our teen center is over 6,000 square feet.”

Despite the abundance of information in the digital age, people are still visiting libraries. In the last year, people visited the counties' libraries more than 6 million times.

“In my mind there’s kind of an ironic phenomenon happening, that in this digital age, with Facebook and everything else, there’s instant communication, and one would think that libraries would become less important, and its actually been the opposite,” Quigley said. When construction began, they had planned to have every desk in the library wired for Internet connectivity. Now the building is just one big Wi-Fi hotspot.

“This library is more than just a warehouse for books, it is that, but it’s so much more than that. The modern library is really the common ground for all San Diegans, it’s the one place where we’re all equal and we can all go to. And it will have resources that aren’t available anywhere else in the community,” said Quigley.

“This library will change this community, will change this entire San Diego region, and, more than anything, will change the people that use it,” added Katz.

For more on the new Central Library's history see this report.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | May 15, 2012 at 10:02 a.m. ― 4 years, 10 months ago

Long overdue, and looking nice!!

Dirty Carl DeMaio fought tooth and nail to stop this project.

Apparently Dirty Carl doesn't care for civic development that benefits the public, he only supports vanity towers proposed by his good friend Old Man Manchester.

But I guarantee you, if Dirty Carl is still a public figure in SD when this opens (hopefully he won't be) he will be front and center on opening day soaking up self-promoting media attention and taking credit for it in typical Filthy DeMaio Fashion.

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Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | May 15, 2012 at 12:12 p.m. ― 4 years, 10 months ago

I agree, we need more libraries!! Education needs to be higher on our priority list. This country is falling behind in that area. If we don't catch ourselves soon, it could lead to our demise in a few generations.

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Avatar for user 'CaliforniaDefender'

CaliforniaDefender | May 15, 2012 at 2:58 p.m. ― 4 years, 10 months ago

Anyone know what the price tag is now? Last I heard a year or two ago it was around $200 million which just seems absurd.

Especially as our unsustainable population sprawls out and we must drive on congested, crumbling roads to reach this monument to antiquity. Forget about our deteriorating power, water, and sewer systems. Yes, what our city needs is a library, just like we need more stables downtown.

We're not like Romans. Not at all. Build another gleaming palace of frivolity!

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Avatar for user 'Tammy Carpowich'

Tammy Carpowich, KPBS Staff | May 15, 2012 at 3:50 p.m. ― 4 years, 10 months ago

Hey Peking_Duck_SD~ In the spirit of civility I'm going to ask you to stop with the name calling. I know "Dirty DeMaio" is a common anti-DeMaio "nickname" out in the world, but on we strive a higher standard. I love your colorful and thoughtful comments, so please keep them coming. Please just do it by focusing on the issues and the facts, without insults directed at individuals. Thanks!

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Avatar for user 'calinsandiego'

calinsandiego | May 16, 2012 at 8:37 a.m. ― 4 years, 10 months ago

California--the price tag is $185 million--the same as when Council approved the project in 2010. And, because it is a construction at risk project, that is a maximum price. If there are cost construction overages, they fall on Turner Construction to cover them. But, Turner reports the project is on budget and on time to open in July of next year. Also, the project is being built with no new taxes, bonds or general fund money. Funds come from development dollars, a state grant, school district lease of space and the remaining 38% from private contributions.

This Library will offer so many educational, cultural and literacy resources, I think we all will be amazed by its impact.

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Avatar for user 'sthowe'

sthowe | May 16, 2012 at 9:39 a.m. ― 4 years, 10 months ago

The current Central Library is almost 60 year old and has outlived its usefulness, especially during a time when City libraries are experiencing record usage. The New Central Library will offer innovative technology for the 21st century and be a community gathering space for all.

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Avatar for user 'dgremsandiego'

dgremsandiego | May 16, 2012 at 10:02 a.m. ― 4 years, 10 months ago

I recently visited the Central Library and could not believe how busy it was - with students, families and their young children, and adults of all ages. The computer lab alone had dozens of people waiting in line. This new library will be an incredible asset for San Diego, with the space and updated resources our community deserves, including more than 400 computers, according to the Library's website.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | May 16, 2012 at 12:57 p.m. ― 4 years, 10 months ago

Dgremsandiego, you are correct. I get so frustrated when people, particularly on the *Pravda UT* comments boards which I have purposefully not been on since Manchester bought the GOP tabloid, post things like "the only people who visit are the homeless" or "we are building a Taj Mahal homeless shelter.

These types of inane comments come from people who don't actually go to the library.

Yes, you can see homeless people sleeping in the street outside the post office and library, but when one actually goes in you see everyone from all walks of like just like you wrote.

I really wish people who never set foot in the downtown library would stop with the false attacks.

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